Marc Levy served as a medic in the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1970. How Stevie Nearly Lost the War and other Postwar Stories (Winter Street Press, 154 pp. $12, paper; $2.99, Kindle) is a small book of powerful short stories and essays that hits like a hand grenade ignited in a closet full of secrets.
Full disclosure: I was a stenographer in Vietnam, so I don’t really know exactly what happened out in the field. Imagining that grenade blast is as close as I wish to get to it.
The special power of language is immediately apparent in the book’s first two stories in which Marc Levy pulls no punches. These stories, in fact, are a punch in the gut.
Here, for example, are a few lines from the beginning of “The Thing They Will Always Carry”:
VA Shrink: Were you in Vietnam?
Vietnam Vet: Yes.
VA Shrink: When were you there?
Vietnam Vet: Last night.
Yes. He was there last night. I totally get that. I was a steno in Vietnam, and when I napped briefly this afternoon, I was back there. I was not typing or taking shorthand. I was interviewing a black guy in Long Binh Jail. Did I ever do that? Yes. But it was much scarier in my dream than it had been in real life—if that is what my tour of duty in Vietnam was.
In his book Levy describes a “safe rear job” in his story “Meeting the New Lieutenant.” He writes of “clean clothes, showers, real beds, reinforced bunkers, fresh food.” All of that is true. Levy doesn’t mention that the water we showered with was saturated with Agent Orange. Just a small thing to overlook, but there it is.
Marc Levy’s great talent is his ability to reach the reader at a personal, intimate level with his poetic whispers and shouts. We are lucky he has chosen to take the time to communicate with us.
His book speaks to all who read it. Please do so.
You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones.
The author’s website is medicinthegreentime.com